Running can be tricky. Sure, how hard can it really be? Lace up your shoes, put one foot in front of the other and go. You can do everything right and some days you just don’t have it. Other days you feel on top of the world. I would have to say that this year’s Chicago Marathon fell somewhere in between the spectrum of feeling on top of the world and then praying that it wouldn’t come crashing down during the last 6 miles.
The Friday Before
We headed down to Chicago Friday late afternoon. We decided to spend some time with my in-laws who were watching Madelyn for us race weekend so that it could be as stress-free as possible. Last year, we took her along to the expo and hubs carted her around the city to see me at various locations. It was interesting to say the least. This year, she spend the weekend with her grandparents which was nice because they don’t live as close my mom and sister do. When we arrived at my in-laws, my MIL had a variety of different pastas and veggies waiting for us. Along with lots of water and wine. The food was delicious as was the pre-celebration cake that she had also purchased:
Chicago Marathon: Run Maria Run
The next morning, we woke up early, ate some breakfast, kissed our little girl good-bye and headed down to meet my sister and mom for the expo.
The Expo & Post Race Meal
Just as overwhelming as it was last year, without or without a stroller ;-) At least this year, I was able to enjoy it a little bit more and stand in line at the Nike counter in peace.
The Chicago Marathon expo is unlike any other I’ve ever been to. Even though going through the whole thing can be totally overwhelming, I can’t believe how well-organized it all is. I could’ve easily been in and out of there in 15 minutes if I wanted to. But clearly, that was not the case. We walked around the whole thing and checked out all the marathon swag. This year, I made sure to pack water and snacks to eat while I browsed. After purchasing some shirts, a jacket, a movie and winning an entry to the 2015 Puerto Rico Marathon(!!!!!),
we decided to make our way back to our hotel to get settled in before dinner. I was even able to squeeze in a NAP before our early dinner reservations. We ate at La Madia, which was walking distance from the hotel. It was a “new to us” contemporary pizzeria and I’m so glad we ventured out of our comfort zone because the food was amazing. We started our meal off with a spinach and taleggio fondue that had a hint of truffle oil. It came with the most amazing warm bread puff which we ordered more of. I feel like restaurants either give you too much dip or not enough dippers :-) Never the perfect amount. We also tried the marsala glaze and whipped ricotta bruchette. So unique and delicious. For my main entree I went with Chianti braised short ribs with risotto. I ate pretty much everything. It was so good that I almost wanted to lick my plate ;-) No worries, I refrained. After dinner the “kids” (hubs & my sister) went out for a few drinks while I headed back to the hotel with my mom to get ready for the next day. After I had everything laid out, we watched Transcend on my laptop. Amazing movie. So inspiring! And if you’re a runner, I highly suggest it. I could go on about how awesome it was, but that’s a different post for a different day.
The Day Of…
We took a short cab ride over to the Hilton on Michigan where Team Salute had a banquet room reserved. It was so nice having a place to hang out with my family before the race and to check my bag without having to stand in a crazy line. I’ve definitely been spoiled that way the last two years. Team Salute offered a light breakfast and beverages for the runners and their families, massages post race, and a BATHROOM!
The best cheerleaders EVER!!!!
While I was in the bathroom, the person in charge Team Salute called for the people in the first corral to head down to the start. I figured I had plenty of time since we were right there and I didn’t have a bag to check. WRONG! I left about a half hour before the corral closed and the lines were absolutely insane. I kept looking at my watch, trying not to panic and laughed when I heard a guy say, “They’re not going to start a race with this many people waiting to check their bags!” Ignorance must be bliss because I was starting to freak out. Everyone around me had clear plastic bags to check, while I was just trying to get into my corral. Just then, I saw a guy in a bright neon jacket waiving people through who did not have bags to check. I made a mad dash for it and got to my corral at 7:19am. It closed at 7:20. Just as I was calming down, it hit me. I had to go to the bathroom again! I knew it would be a short bathroom trip but the lines to the port o pottys were insane. There was no way I would make it in time. I debated whether or not I should just start the race and then go at the first port o potty station. I knew that I didn’t want to start the marathon out like this so I waited in line. For 9 minutes. At 7:29 I was back just in the knick of time for a 7:30 start. Talk about close calls.
Easy with a few challenges thrown in there. I started the marathon with a race pace band from r2r pace bands. My goal for the band that I decided to go with was 4:25. I had three goals set for the this race: A)Beat my time from last year B)Come in under 4:45 C)Finish in the 4:30s. I decided that this year I would forgo my headphones the first half of the race so that I wouldn’t get too excited and start out too fast. My plan was to use them during the second half when you hit a few dead spots on the south side. I’m so glad that I decided to do this. The crowds were absolutely insane and incredibly motivating! Despite a few hiccups in the first half, I had so much fun! The first half of this course is so fun to me because mainly I know where I’m going. I easier for me to mentally push myself because I could do the first 13.1 miles with very little guidance. I knew what side of the street to be running on in order to hug the corners. I felt really good. But from the moment that I started running, I could feel that my shoes were tied too loosely. I had thought about stopping the first chance I got to tie them up better, but foolishly I kept going. While I was out on the course I did manage to see this guy again!
He goes by “Dr. Dribble”. He dribbled two basketballs the entire time!!! Talk about talent! Side note…I hate taking pictures while I’m running :-) Shortly after I hit the 8 mile marker somewhere on Broadway in Lakeview, I saw my cheerleaders! Perfect opportunity to re-tie my shoes! I stopped over quickly, told them that I was feeling good and headed back on my way. As I was running, I then realized that they were much too tight :-/ I found an aid station shortly before mile 12, sat down, took one of my socks off and put some vasoline on the bottom of my foot (I was feeling a blister form) and headed back on my way. I looked at my watch and at my pace band and I was now almost 3 minutes behind my pace. Instead of looking at where I needed to be overall, I looked at what each mile needed to be and tried to stay with that as best as I could. I crossed the half in 2:14:23. Only about 3 minutes ahead of my time last year. I knew that I was going to have to push myself hard the second half if I wanted to beat last year’s time.
I was definitely in my own little world during this race. I can barely remember any of the spectator signs on the course. I was so focused on my pace for each mile and making sure I was hydrating and fueling properly. It was around mile 14 that I tried putting my headphones in. For some reason, they just weren’t fitting right, and were becoming more of a distraction than anything so I tucked them back into my flip belt. I’m glad that I did because I remember the atmosphere so clearly. People cheering me on by name. The sights, sounds and smells while running through Charity Village, Pilsen, and Chinatown. The second half of the race was the most challenging but yet the most rewarding for me. I felt small victories as I ran past certain spots on the course that I remembered stopping at last year because I either had to walk or stop to stretch. When others were stopping to walk, I kept on running. When I did have the urge to stop and walk, I reminded myself that a slow run is faster than walking. I was feeling really good and on pace to finish in the 4:30s until mile 20 came. Mile 20…The proverbial “wall”. It was weird and not like anything I experienced last year. I actually felt good. I wanted to keep running and keep running hard, but every time I tried, I felt like I was going to puke. This feeling lingered for the final 6.2 miles making it the longest of my life. I thought to myself that maybe if I did throw up, I’d feel better and could continue running. But then I kept thinking about becoming dehydrated and not being able to finish that last bit of the race. I would’ve been devastated. There was no way in hell that I was going to let months of hard work and time spent away from my family be for a DNF. So my goal then became, not to puke until I got to the finish line. For 6 miles I alternated 1 minute of walking with running for as long as I could before I felt like I had to stop again. By mile 25, I had nothing left in me. I was hoping to get that second wind, but it never came. I pushed myself, with everything I had left, up that hill on Roosevelt and around that corner to the finish line. And I made it! I crossed the finish line in 4:43:14. 24 minutes faster than my time from last year!! I was thrilled! And I didn’t even puke.
After hobbling back to the Hilton, I drank a protein drink, changed out of my sweaty clothes, and got a post race quickie massage. After I sat there for a while, we made our way over to Lou Malnatti’s for a celebratory feast & drink :-) I ate two helpings of Lou salad and a slice of pizza. My stomach still wasn’t feeling 100% but it felt good to eat something. While we were sitting there, we also witnessed the Packers pull off a WIN :-) It was a great little Sunday.
We took the L back to our hotel. Traffic was too crazy to try to hail a cab and I needed to keep moving. When we got back to our room, I had a sweet. little treat waiting for me:
From my very thoughtful husband. Way better than flowers. I think I’ll keep you ;-)
After a bath and a short little nap, I laid in our huge king size hotel bed and texted my mom who was on her way back to WI. I thanked her for everything, all of her support and I told her that I was really proud of myself. I managed to shave off nearly a minute a mile and I knew in my heart and soul, that I had given the race everything I had. That to me is by far a much bigger measure than meeting the time goal-pushing the body and mind past a point that you thought was impossible. It truly becomes mental at a certain point and I’m so glad that was able to overcome the obstacles that were thrown my way.
I like this feeling of contentment. Knowing that I gave it my all and I did the best that I could. I have yet to think to myself, “I could’ve done better.” Sure, there are things that I probably could’ve done differently, but I did the best I could with the hand that was I dealt that Sunday.
I can’t say whether or not there is another Chicago Marathon in my future. I’m content with the results of this race and the experience was the best marathon experience I’ve had. I’ve made good memories with this one and I don’t want to tarnish them. So onto the next :-) I am excited to see what the future holds for me…both running-wise and personally. For now, I’m going to turn my focus back to my family, spend some quality time with that “not so little girl”, and enjoy being “lazy” on Saturdays. I think it’s well deserved.